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Chair Foxx Leads North Carolina Lawmakers in Defending Freedom of Thought at Oldest Public University

Today, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) led North Carolina congressional Republicans in a letter to Dr. Belle Wheelan—President of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)—asking her to clarify public comments she made opposing a resolution passed by the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill to “accelerate its [UNC’s] development of a School of Civic Life and Leadership.” In their letter, the lawmakers contend Dr. Wheelan broke SACSCOC policy by pre-judging the actions of UNC’s governing board.
In the letter, the lawmakers write: “Earlier this year we read with interest of the 12-0 vote of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill approving a resolution requesting the university’s administration to ‘accelerate its development of a School of Civic Life and Leadership. … This resolution is but one step in the process to develop the school. We write to express our concerns about recent public comments attributed to you.’”
The lawmakers continue: “Jenna A. Robinson, President of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, wrote that you made a presentation to the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina (‘Commission’) on February 7, 2023, during which you contended that ‘UNC-Chapel Hill’s board is going to get a letter because of a news article that came out that said that the board, without input from the administration or faculty, had decided they were going to put in this new curriculum offering . . . that’s kind of not the way we do business.’ … While we appreciate your subsequent comments that SACSCOC makes no decisions without first gathering information, we are concerned by your initial remarks to the Commission, which appear to put the institution on warning before fully understanding the Board’s action.”
The lawmakers conclude: As members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, we expect accreditors not to pre-judge actions of governing boards, follow normal processes, be attentive to such matters of public importance, and act in accord with federal and state law. We further expect SACSCOC to keep central to its decision-making the need to ensure public university campuses remain a marketplace of ideas.”
Cosigners include: Reps. Patrick McHenry, Richard Hudson, David Rouzer, Gregory F. Murphy, M.D., Chuck Edwards, and Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd. 
Read the full letter here.

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